Imagine a Nautilus shell tilted to the surface of the X-ray sensor. The parts close to the sensor are sharp, the distant parts unsharp. Because the X-ray beam creates a central projection. The focal plane is the plane of the sensor, in focus are those parts close to the sensor.
The shell looks like entering the image or leaving it.
Different energies of X-ray radiation mean different transparency of an object. There is an example in my FAQ using a Nautilus shell.
Instead of compressing images of different energies to a single image today I subtracted the 70 kV image of a Nautilus shell from the 40 kV image.
The central parts of the Nautilus shell are more dense and show a significant higher difference. The core of the shell gets shiny. This is how it looks like:
In positive X-ray representation you can compare the results. Left hand is the compressed image of 4 different energy levels, right hand the difference image.
How does an X-ray look like with a complete, unsplit specimen of a Nautilus shell ? Will X-rays go through the object ?
My three Nautilus shells I bought in Crete are split specimens. The following approach will give an answer to the question. My composition of my shells is 3-dimensional and in nearly upright position. X-rays were then done with different directions of the radiation to study the effect.
The first image was obtained with radiation coming from the top. The native X-ray representation is with a black background. Historically this was a film negative. Radiologists speak of „transparent“ areas where a film is black. Consequently, white areas are called „opaque“.
The result of radiation coming from the top and slightly tilted shells gives different insights of each shell. The composition looks like a complex mathematical surface or some flying insect.
The inverted (or „positive“) representation is weightless and our mind starts to produce lots of phantasies about the composition.
The effect of colorizing an X-ray is not only graphically. It looks more natural.
The following image was obtained by combining the inverted image with a flat projection of a single shell to a single image. Now one gets an idea of the effect of the beam path.
A tilted beam path shows the a bit more detail of the „wings“. Tilt was about 30 degrees.
Tilt by 45 degrees shows more of a Nautilus as we know it.
How to communicate an erratic process in terms of an image ? The Iliadic greek were pirates of the Mediterranean with fast vessels, invading mainland from the seas, enslaving people, robbing stocks and much more.
The writing down of the Ilias was between 678 and 662 B.C., a time of Assyrian dominance and cultural superiority.
With three different Nautilus shells I bought last September on Crete I did this composition on my big X-ray sensor with 35cm x 43 cm and 170µm per pixel resolution. Two energy levels were necessary to get a high resolution image of the core of the Nautilus shells.
To overcome the look-and-feel of a medical X-ray it is a logical idea to invert the light. Black becomes white and vice versa. White means shining through of X-rays, black means opacity. It’s like a dream !
How to prepare a X-ray session ? What flowers suit to a Nautilus shell ? Where does color come in ?
I went to my gorgeous florist to have a look what offer she can make during wintertime. My phantasy were spinning around something ethereal or unrealistic. I bought some flowers with respect to their shape.
The Anthuria caught my eye immediately. The Tulip was still closed and got more and more yellow within hours.
All these compositions shown here were made with dual energy X-ray. The lowest energy of the tube is 40kV, which yields with 4 mAs a quite good insight of flowers. For the center of the Nautilus shell, 70kV and 2.5 mAs is more appropriate.
My first composition was a Nautilus taking off a bouquet of flowers. This reminded me of Renaissance engravings full of symbols. I do not feel depressed. The representation as a X-ray positive jsut shows the bouquet.
A more grounded composition is the second with a Nautilus shell moving towards the roots of my bouquet. Hopefully, the plants will survive. The positive representation always needs some extra editing. By just inverting the Blacks and the Whites the Nautilus would be too dark. Our reception cannot be just inverted and feels alright.
With the look-and-feel of old engravings in mind the third composition ist between surreal and a still. It took me some time to mask out the flaws of an original X-ray to get a true black background. Masking can be done iteratively and easily combined with Photoshop. („That’s what Photoshop is made for !“).
Some colorizing was done to overcome missing photographic shots. There was simply no time in my X-ray unit to do both at a time.
My fourth composition is called „The Argonauts“. The Nautilus shell serves as Argo, the legendary fast ship, with its crew, called Argonauts. The colored version is more convenient for our eyes. As before the X-ray positive looks more ethereal.
X-rays were initially used for research in atomic physics and medical diagnostics and therapy. Their ability to reveal structures inside an object even with an opaque surface was the driving feature of scientific and technical development of X-rays. Nowadays, beside its proven medical usefulness, X-rays are used to examine technical structures and there are telescopes to map X-rays from our Galaxy and the universe. Every radiological technician who starts in its profession learns to do X-rays of common structures like flowers, animals or teddy bears.
In the digital era, X-ray images are obtained using sensors, while film was used historically. The sensors in the medical radiological field have dimensions such as 24cm x 30cm or 43cm x 43cm. The corresponding spatial resolution for these sensors is between 70µm and 140µm. A typical high-end camera used by a professional or advanced amateur photographer might have a pixel resolution between 4 and 8 µm. Therefore, photographers might well wonder if there is any precise imaging possible with such pixel size. Let’s look at this a little more closely.
X-rays, like visible light, can be characterized by their energy or wavelength. Shorter wavelengths correspond to higher energy. The capability to penetrate an opaque structure increases with energy. If you think of a photon as a particle, smaller particles with higher energies penetrate an object more easily. An overview of this relationship is given in the table shown here:
To make this more clear, here is a series of X-Ray images with increasing energy. The first image was obtained with 40 kV which corresponds to a wavelength of 0.031nm. Our eyes are only able to see wavelengths between 400nm (blue) and 750 nm (red). Therefore, photons with a wavelength at 40 kV cannot be seen with the naked eye. The peripheral parts of the Nautilus shell are clearly depicted. A photographer would classify the circle at the center of the shell as „blown out“. In fact, they are not blown out. The radiation is not able to resolve the structure, because the wavelength of the X-rays is too long in this case to penetrate the shell.
Let’s go to shorter wavelengths (implying higher energies). Using 50 kV or a wavelength of 0.024nm gives more structure to the central parts. The photographic impression of a „blown out“ center is reduced. However, looking at the peripheral parts of the Nautilus there is a loss of intensity and a more grayish impression. It is conceivable that this might be regarded as an overall acceptable but subtle effect.
To take this further, we can go up to 60 kV or down to 0.0207nm. The center is now close to perfectly „exposed“ with some detail apparent, although some smaller structures are still not resolved. The intensity loss at the peripheral parts increases and is now pronounced. A photographer would clearly regard the periphery as „underexposed“.
The last example of this direction of higher energy and shorter wavelengths is 70 kV or a wavelength of 0.0177nm. The photons wavelength is now 57% compared to 40 kV. You may think of this as „smaller“ photons. The result is a clearly depicted core with a complete loss of peripheral structure. A photographer would have every reason to be worried about „underexposure“ and loss of detail everywhere but the center.
What we’ve seen here is that the capability of X-rays to penetrate an object and to go through an object is dependent on energy levels. With shorter wavelengths X-rays go through an object without disturbance but our sensor is „blown out“ at the peripheral parts of the Nautilus shell. Using 70 kV the central parts are much better resolved, but the periphery is too dark. The energy to use for any X-ray image therefore often depends on the primary goal of which portion of the subject is most important to capture.
In a certain sense, the compositing of images with different energies into one image can be compared to the HDR process of photography in the field of visible light. Whereby in visible light the intensity plays the essential role and not the light energy, which determines the color. When X-raying an object that requires different energy levels for accurate representation, I would therefore also speak of a High Dynamic Range image.
If combined, the four exposures shown provide a beautiful, nearly weightless image:
Today I put some tests on my cretean purchases from last September to evaluate their potential of being subject to fusion imaging. I bought three Nautilus shells and two sea snails, holding them in the store against the sun to check their transparency. My untidy studio accommodated these precious stones under quite a bunch of something.
The best representation is with a black background, i.e. with inverted L-channel in Lab colors. With a black background a soft shining light appears in the objects.
This snail has a shape a triangle and resembles a bear claw or an Apollo capsule in the late Sixties. The translucency is very little.
The following snail has a classic shape. With the black background it resembles a galaxy in outer space.
My first attempt with the Nautilus shells led me to a copper-like color representation with a single shot image. Lab colors is the key to this color and light distribution. Very attractive is the fact of two shells turning right and one left. Why did I wait so long to make this image ? Why do we miss important opportunities ?